Many vegetables in Manitoba go to waste, simply because they don’t look good enough for the fresh market. Kelly Beaulieu has tackled this problem by developing her own technology to create nutritious purees from vegetables that would otherwise be sold for animal feed or plowed under.
A certified agrologist and a member of Sandy Bay First Nation, Beaulieu modified existing equipment to create a unique technology using direct steam injection, which fully cooks and sterilizes vegetables in just four to 20 seconds. The resulting product is a puree with all of the colour, flavour and nutrition of raw vegetables. The additive-free purees are packaged into pouches that can be stored at room temperature for up to two years.
Canadian Prairie Garden Purees (CPGP), now based in Portage la Prairie, MB, is one of several notable alumni of the Eureka Project (now North Forge). The professional appearance of the affordable office space and well-equipped meeting rooms helped her business look more legitimate in the beginning when meeting with larger clients.
“Being in a place where there are other startups around and people with entrepreneurial attitudes… is very important,” said Beaulieu.
“Starting a business can often be a lonely and difficult journey, so the atmosphere of shared experience, as well as the ability to ask others for advice, was very helpful.”
Her mentors at the Eureka Project helped Beaulieu investigate the market and plan ahead, including suggestions like getting Letters of Intent to Purchase from customers, which later helped secure funding for the business.
In 2012, the company received $2.5-million in funding as part of the federal government’s Agricultural Innovation Program, in order for them to develop their products while making use of products already grown by local farmers
“The encouragement I got from Eureka was very powerful for me,” said Beaulieu.
Their support ultimately helped her transition from a startup to an award winning business, earning a second place finish at the 2015 Banff Venture Forum in the sustainable technology category. In January, the company received $582,000 to invest in new equipment and greatly expand its operations from the Government of Canada and the Government of Manitoba. Over the next five years, the company plans to expand from nine employees to 60.
Other industries have found ways of utilizing CPGP’s innovations – in April, they announced a partnership with Fort Garry Brewing in Winnipeg to produce a new beer infused with their puree berries. The beer company’s Sassy Saskatoon Berry ale is set for a seasonal release this summer with Prairie Garden Saskatoon Berry Puree driving the flavor.